Lisson Gallery now represents the estate of the American abstract painter Ted Stamm (1944 – 1984) in New York and London. The gallery will present a solo exhibition in New York in March 2018, featuring works from the artist’s “Wooster” series, including paintings, works on paper, archival material and photographs of the Wooster Designator street works. Accompanying the exhibition, Lisson Gallery will produce the first major publication on Stamm with an essay by historian Alex Bacon.
Coming of age in the mid-1960s, Stamm was an integral part of the artists enclave of SoHo in downtown Manhattan. Upon graduation from Hofstra University in 1968, Stamm returned to his hometown of New York to continue his investigation of painting and printmaking. Between 1968 and 1972, Stamm produced lyrical abstract paintings consisting of poured red, blue and pink paint on canvas. In the summer of 1972, inspired by the work of Ad Reinhardt, he introduced grid-like patterns of black markings onto these works, which he referred to as his “Cancel” paintings. Black became an important component of Stamm’s work from this point forward, a colour he associated with rebellion, rigor and reduction.
In 1973, Stamm began to make conceptually-driven works determined by systems of chance. For his “Chance” series, Stamm invented a system whereby the rolling of a dice or spinning of a roulette wheel would determine the format of the specific work and the number of layers of paint. In 1974, Stamm encountered an irregular shape on the pavement on his street in SoHo — a rectangle joined on the left by a slightly shorter triangle. Titled the “Wooster” series for the location of this revelation, these geometric forms with hard edges furthered the artist’s exploration of shaped canvases, formalist elements of the line, and literal as well as depicted shapes.
Often working in different, overlapping series, Stamm created the “Dodger” works at the same time as the “Wooster” series. The “Dodger” shape was named for the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team and derived from the curved angles of a baseball field. Composed of arched stretchers, joined to irregular polygonal shapes, an interior shape was defined in precisely painted on raw canvas. The “Dodger” series evolved to the “C-Dodger” series in the late 1970s, as Stamm became increasingly fascinated with the concept of speed and the aerodynamic design of cars, trains and airplanes. The “C” in the title referred to the supersonic passenger jet airplane the Concorde. In 1979, Stamm introduced the “Zephyr” series which were inspired by the high velocity stainless-steel train of the same name that set speed records for travel between Denver, Colorado and Chicago, Illinois in 1934.
Stamm was heavily engaged in experimental work with other artists and his friends during his lifetime. For his “Tag” series, visitors to his studio were asked to make a mark on a found garment tag that was affixed to a page in a sketchbook. Stamm would then respond to this mark in a second sketchbook of the same design, and both pages were then stamped with the date and other collateral material to create a record of the time and place of their exchange.
In the mid 1970s Stamm also made proto graffiti street interventions that he titled “Designators”. Stamm discreetly stenciled a small “Dodger” shape in locations around New York City that held a personal significance to him. On repeat visits the image would be altered by changing black to silver or by adding a T on top of the shape. Other works from this series includes the “TT” and “Wooster” Designators.